What Happens If the Victim Breaks a Restraining Order in the UK?

What Happens If the Victim Breaks a Restraining Order in the UK?
What Happens If the Victim Breaks a Restraining Order in the UK?

In the legal landscape of the UK, restraining orders are issued to protect individuals from threats, harassment, or harm by prohibiting certain actions of the person named in the order. Typically, we consider scenarios where the perpetrator violates these conditions. However, an often less discussed but equally complex situation arises when the victim themselves breaks the terms of a restraining order. This blog post delves into the legal ramifications and the practical implications if a victim initiates contact with the restrainer, examining the complexities of such cases and offering guidance.

Understanding Restraining Orders

Firstly, it’s essential to clarify what a restraining order is and its intended purpose. In the UK, restraining orders are commonly issued under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the Family Law Act 1996. They are designed to protect individuals by legally restricting someone’s actions towards the person protected by the order—these can include prohibitions on contacting, approaching, or even entering the vicinity of the protected person’s home or workplace.

The Legal Framework

Restraining orders are part of a preventative strategy aimed at safeguarding individuals from potential harm. They are typically issued during sentencing after a conviction or an acquittal in criminal proceedings, particularly in cases involving harassment, stalking, or domestic violence. The order is directed at the defendant, not the victim. Therefore, the legal obligations rest with the defendant.

What If a Victim Initiates Contact?

The scenario where a victim breaks the terms of a restraining order by initiating contact with the restrainer is legally complex.

  • No Legal Breach by the Victim: Legally, the victim of a restraining order cannot ‘breach’ the order because it does not bind them. The restraining order imposes restrictions on the defendant (the person who has been ordered to stay away), not the victim.
  • Impact on the Restraining Order: If a victim initiates contact, it does not invalidate the restraining order. The order remains in place, and the restrained person is still legally obligated to abide by it. Responding to the contact or engaging with the victim can be deemed a breach of the order by the restrained person, potentially leading to criminal charges.

Possible Consequences for the Restrained Person

Even if contact is initiated by the protected person, the restrained person must adhere to the terms of the order:

  • Risk of Legal Consequences: Engaging with the victim in any form can lead to accusations of breaching the restraining order. The restrained person may face arrest, charges, and potential conviction if they react to the victim’s attempts at contact.
  • Advice for the Restrained Person: Legal advice is crucial. It’s generally recommended to avoid responding and to document the incident to provide evidence that the contact was initiated by the protected person.

Implications for Future Legal Proceedings

When a victim initiates contact, it can complicate future legal proceedings related to the restraining order.

  • Reviewing the Order’s Terms: Such incidents might prompt a review of the restraining order’s terms. Both parties may be asked to attend court to discuss the necessity and appropriateness of maintaining the order.
  • Potential Modifications: Depending on the circumstances, the court might consider modifying the terms of the order or even revoking it if deemed unnecessary.

Psychological and Social Considerations

The reasons why a victim might breach the ‘spirit’ of a restraining order by initiating contact are varied and often rooted in complex psychological, emotional, or social factors:

  • Emotional Dependency: In cases of domestic violence, victims may have complex emotional bonds with their abuser, which can lead to conflicting actions like seeking contact.
  • Manipulation: There are instances where the restrained person might manipulate the victim into making contact, further complicating the situation.
  • Social and Family Connections: Shared social circles or family ties can also lead to situations where contact is almost inevitable, requiring careful navigation and potentially legal adjustments to the order.

Practical Advice for Victims

For victims considering contact with a person restrained by an order protecting them, it’s important to consider the following:

  1. Seek Legal Guidance: Before initiating any form of contact, it’s prudent to consult with a solicitor to understand the potential implications fully.
  2. Consider Counselling: If you are struggling with the emotional aspects of the restraining order, professional counselling can provide support and clarity.
  3. Review the Need for the Order: If circumstances have changed significantly, consider legal avenues to amend or revoke the restraining order formally.

Conclusion

While victims are not legally bound by the terms of a restraining order, initiating contact with the restrained person can lead to significant legal and personal complications. It is crucial for all parties involved to handle such situations with care and to seek appropriate legal and professional advice. Understanding the nuances of restraining orders and the correct actions to take can prevent further harm and ensure that protective measures serve their intended purpose effectively.

In complex situations where emotions and legal obligations intersect, informed decisions and careful actions are paramount. Whether you are the victim or the restrained person, navigating the intricacies of restraining orders with awareness and caution is essential for maintaining safety and legality.

Avatar of DLS Solicitors by DLS Solicitors
13th May 2024
Avatar of DLS Solicitors
DLS Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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